It’s Raining Gumballs, Hallelujah

My friend asked me if I had ever read anything by Jen Hatmaker the day before her book, Interrupted, arrived on my doorstep.

Coincidence? I think not!

Anyway, I had only made it halfway through Chapter One when I was slapped in the face with this glorious piece of honesty:

“I am still stunned by my capacity to spin Scripture, see what I wanted, ignore what I didn’t, and use the Word to defend my life rather than define it.”

So much conviction packed into that one sentence. We humans are astounding in our treachery, no? We read the Bible with our blinders on, seeing only what we are looking to find instead of opening our hearts to what God might want to say to us.

It reminds me of the movie Bedtime Stories, where the stories Adam Sandler tells his niece and nephew become his reality for the following day. After surviving a hailstorm of gumballs, Uncle Skeeter gets a bright idea: He is going to tell stories that have the potential to make his life considerably better.

But there’s a twist Skeeter hasn’t caught onto despite the raining gumballs. Only the details the children add to the story come true. And the kids unknowingly create some pretty interesting scenarios for their poor Uncle Skeeter.

I never thought I would find myself saying I relate with Adam Sandler, but in this case, I do. Here I am, weaving a story for myself, trying to spin life to my own favor, when God shakes things up with a few added details. Next thing I know, I’m just going about my day, trying to catch a break… when suddenly I get kicked by an angry dwarf.

Oh, come on, God! Are you serious? What was that?

The irony of Bedtime Stories is that the kids ultimately create an even better ending than Skeeter had in mind for himself. I guess I can only trust that God has a better ending for me than the one I would create with my two, flawed hands.

Because I’ve searched the Bible regarding certain situations before, looking for loopholes and hoping to spin the Word in my favor. (The Bible can be pretty vague at times.)

Then I realized I was doing exactly what Jen Hatmaker explained in Interrupted.

I was using the Word to defend my life rather than define it.

But God was still winning because, try as I may to write my own ending, God had other plans. Better plans. And I never had as much control as I let myself believe I did.

Yes, I’ve been spinning my stories, but only the details God approved came to pass. And those details have made for some pretty interesting adventures.

I wouldn’t trade this journey for the life I thought I wanted. I have been wrong too many times about the things I thought would bring me joy. No, sir, God is doing just fine as director of this little mess called life.

So instead of trying to defend the story I’ve crafted in my own imagination, I’m going to let my life be redefined by the Master Storyteller—the One who believes in magical things like raining gumballs.

gumballs

Exactly Where You Want Me

The other night at Bible study, someone got brave enough to confess she was “just done.” She was frustrated beyond the point of inviting God into her daily life and hadn’t read her Bible in months.

She shared that with us. In Bible study. And I thought back to the many Wednesday nights I’ve sat quietly in my chair while feeling much the same way.

Rebekah, Rebekah, let down your hair…

So I’m sitting there beside her, feeling my heart completely break. Like, I just wanted to wrap this girl up in my arms and say, “I know exactly what you’re feeling. I was there not so long ago, myself.”

Then I started thinking about what it took to work myself out of that funk, because obviously if I know the way out, I want to share it with her. I don’t think I realized exactly how it happened until I wracked my brain trying to find answers last night. And I hope to God He has an easier way out for my friend.

Last fall, I was struggling pretty hard. The way life was meant to look in my head and the way it was panning out in reality didn’t exactly match up. I was in transition, and if you asked me, the transition was lasting way too long. I needed guidance, I needed direction, and, mostly, I needed the assurance that the place God had brought me to wasn’t the place He had intended for me all along. Because I was scared to death God had me exactly where He wanted me and I would just have to suck it up and get on with life according to His plan.

Then there was The Guy.

I reconnected with an old friend and we started tossing around the idea of a lifetime together. Suddenly everything made sense. Suddenly my discontent fell away and this transition became bearable. I could stick it out for another year if I had forever to look forward to.

“Forever” lasted about three months. That’s how long it took me to wake up from my fantasies and realize this guy wasn’t actually the best thing for me (and I probably wasn’t the best thing for him). It didn’t make sense at first. When I walked away from this relationship with absolutely nothing, I didn’t understand what God was doing.

You see, my first relationship wrecked me. Instantly and completely. Beautifully and poetically. There’s the Rebekah from before her first date and the Rebekah from after she said goodbye for the last time, and the two are pretty incomparable. (To the friend who told me “None of this will matter in a year or two” …you were wrong, and I am thankful.)

So of course I assumed that this more recent relationship wasn’t meant for me at all. Maybe God had something He needed to do in my boyfriend’s life, and I was just the vessel He chose. Because, yes, sometimes I am that narrow-minded.

But because of the honesty that greeted me the other night, I’m seeing that once again, the Rebekah I was before the first date and the Rebekah I am now that all the ties have been severed are not the same. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as the first time. Maybe it didn’t grow me in grace and redefine my worldview to the same extent the other did, but it was just enough to pull me out of that prison I had built using misplaced expectations.

God had to give me everything I thought I wanted so He could show me just how wrong I had been.

And it was hard at first. I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to put my feet because the path upon which I had been walking had been ripped out from under me. I was treading water, unable to discern up from down. And then finally, finally, there was the calm.

I stopped being scared God had me exactly where He wanted me, and simply accepted that, yes, this is His plan for my present. When I finally stopped refusing to see that God had a purpose for me in this space, I was able to catch a glimpse of what that purpose might be.

And for the first time since I moved home last summer, I can say I’m truly happy here.

While I want an easier path for my friend, I’m willing to pray for whatever it takes. Because, though the journey may be hard, it is nothing compared to the emptiness of trying to make it on your own. And I have a feeling she, like me, is going to have to do it the hard way. Because she knows all the Sunday School answers, but when the heart has wandered, answers are never enough.

Sometimes we silly sheep have to wander off into the woods because it’s not enough to hear the Shepherd’s voice echoing through the valley. We want to be found. We want to be lifted. We want to be cradled in His arms and carried out of the dark so we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, yes, this is exactly where He wanted us all along.

Swallowing Grace

I close Sunday nights at work. My managers think I’m a great closer because I leave the place spotless, but I hate closing. Not because of the mopping and the scrubbing and the dozen little things that always need done, but because it puts me in charge of my fellow co-workers for the night. No one leaves without my stamp of approval saying they did all they were supposed to do before they left.

This might not be a problem, except I’m somewhat of a doormat. I hate making waves. I don’t want to be that jerk who says, “Hey, I don’t think you did this well enough. Clean it again.”

For the most part, I’ve worked with a really great staff who will go the extra mile for me, but things have changed up in recent weeks, and last night… Well, last night, I had the ultimate test on my doormat character.

When my dear co-worker who will go unnamed in this post asked me to check her stuff, I was confused to find that she had only been assigned one task when everyone else had been assigned two, especially since I was the one assigning the tasks. But when I checked my list and looked at the job I had intended to give her, I was surprised to find my own name written there.

Now, I’m not one to assume bad things of people, so my first thought was, “Did I accidentally fill in my own name?” But no, that wasn’t my handwriting. When you looked at the rest of the list that I clearly wrote, it was obvious to see someone had erased this girl’s name and written mine in her place.

It was late. I was tired and confused and still naive enough not to assume the culprit was standing right next to me.

Then she made a fatal mistake. She saw the parmesan cheese shaker in my hand and asked if she needed to refill it and put it away.

My gaze snapped from the list to her face. “You wrapped the parm and pepper shakers?”

“Yeah.”

I looked at the list, then back to her, waiting for her to realize that she had just implicated herself in a crime. But judging by the fact that she wrote my name on a list where my name was never supposed to appear, I’m going to assume she wasn’t quite clever enough to realize she had “accidentally” done half of “my” task. Which wouldn’t make sense unless she knew the job was meant to be hers in the first place.

So there I am, waiting for her to stop lying to my face, when she asks, “So, am I good?”

And because I actually somewhat enjoy folding pizza boxes, I simply said, “Yeah, you’re good,” and scribbled my name on her cashout.

Minutes later, I was standing in the expo line with a stack of thirty pizza boxes, which caused quite a stir among my remaining co-workers, who knew the closer wasn’t responsible for tasks such as these.

“Did you give yourself that out?” one of them asked.

“No, but someone did.”

It wasn’t difficult for them to figure out what had happened, and that’s when the suggestions began.

“You shouldn’t just give her pizza boxes next week; you should give her something hard, like tea brewers.”

“Just give her an extra out. That’s what I would do.”

And I have to say all of their suggestions sounded really good. I could passive-aggressively make her Sunday nights miserable for as long as she works them. It’s really tempting to want to make her Sunday nights miserable, at least for a week or two.

But then I was driving home and God started stirring things up inside of me. He started talking about being a light in this world and reminded me of the passage in John 8 where Jesus extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

And that is when I knew for certain that, while revenge is sweet, grace is a bitter pill to swallow. Even in accepting it, your pride will be stung, but extending it to those who are unworthy… The best analogy I can come up with in this moment is that it’s like chugging a bottle of buffalo sauce, and that only makes sense if you know how the very smell of it nauseates me.

But it fits. When my stomach starts to swim at the thought of being the giver of grace in this situation, it’s about the only thing that fits.

I’m having a hard time imagining looking this co-worker in the eye and saying, “I know what you did with the outs list last week, and I forgive you. What do you say we start fresh?”

On the other hand, I can’t imagine it going any other way. God’s voice is loud in the hearts of those who have turned themselves over to Him.

So, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe I’ll say nothing and continue on with life as normal. Maybe I’ll keep the pencil poised over pizza boxes (and tea brewers and oh have fun with the soda machine) longer than I should. Or maybe I’ll finally find courage enough to open my mouth and speak the words that need to be said.